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Invasive Weed Discovered In Genesee River

Katie Lovering

Volunteers this week are going into Braddock Bay and the Genesee River to remove an invasive species known as the water chestnut.

Hilary Mosher of the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management at Hobart and William Smith Colleges says now is a good time to go after this weed.

"We want to concentrate our efforts to where they're going to make the biggest impact, and right now, it's the biggest impact - removing water chestnuts from our waterways."

Mosher says volunteers want to remove them before they drop seeds that can grow next year or be easily spread to other area waterways.

The European Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) is a highly invasive freshwater plant species.
Credit Monroe County Soil and Water Conservation District
Not to be confused with water chestnut you can buy canned in a grocery store (different species), the European Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) is a highly invasive freshwater plant species.

The water chestnut is an exceptionally hardy invader from Western Europe, Africa and Northeast Asia.

"It has this really sharp, spiny nutlet, that it has on its rosette, and those stick to swimsuits, boat trailers, know it's just a really sharp nutlet and it's carried to different waterbodies."

It's already in Braddock and Sodus bays, Oneida Lake, the Seneca River and several other area waterways.

Mosher says invasive species cost Americans 137 billion dollars annually to control or remove and Monroe County is no exception.

Mosher says an acre of water chestnuts in one year will produce 100 acres the following year.

"These plants and animals that are coming from other areas, or outside of the area of consideration who are causing ecological damage, human health impact, and economic concern."

You may have seen the dense, floating mats, which block sunlight, and hamper boaters and swimmers.

"U.S. Fish and Wildlife has just discovered an infestation by The Spirit of Rochester. So, we're having an all-points bulletin on Tuesday morning, to try to create an effort to remove the plant from the Genesee," said Mosher.

Mosher says the infestation on the river was spotted early.

"From an invasive species point of view, this is the ideal situation, where you have an early detection of an invasive species which is of major concern, such as water chestnut, and then we mobilize and have a rapid response."

Volunteers are encouraged to join the weed pulling, provided they understand what they’re getting into.

"You will be getting wet, so definitely wear shoes that can be muddy and clothes that can be muddy. If you have a boat, it's even better, because we will be in the water pulling from a boat."

Monday afternoon, the state B.A.S.S. Nation group will bring their large boat to a weed pull on Braddock Bay. The work there started Saturday.

In 2014, volunteers spent over 150 volunteer hours across five days in Braddock Bay to remove more than five tons of the plant, according to Hilary Mosher.

The effort is labor intensive. There are harvesters, but there are obstacles to using them, according Mosher.

"The problem is, in a lot of these locations it's hard to get access and these big boats can't maneuver the waterways well - or it's in really shallow water, where these harvesters can't get into either."

She adds bio and chemical controls are also appropriate for some infestations, but it is pretty satisfying to pull them out.

"Yes, when you see a huge pile of water chestnuts you do feel good having put in a full day's work."

Working together with the Genesee Audubon Society, and the NYS B.A.S.S. Nation, the Finger Lakes- Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FL-PRISM) has scheduled several pulls to remove the plant from these waters.

Mosher says volunteers are needed to help pull the plant from this protected wetland. She suggests you wear clothes that can get dirty and wet, wear sunscreen, and bring a life jacket, waders, or a boat, if you have them. The group will meet at the Braddock Bay Marina.

Contact Hilary Mosher

Finger Lakes- Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FL-PRISM)